14 Tourist Scams in India to be Aware of

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14 Tourist Scams in India to be Aware

One thing I have learnt on my backpacking adventure of India is the array of scams that are dealt to you.  Here are 14 scams in India to be aware of and that I personally heard or experienced myself while travelling there.


1. Say no to people ‘helping’ you lift your bag anywhere

When arriving out of Delhi airport make sure that no one else handles your bag or so called ‘helps’ you lift your bag into 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.  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 up stairs etc, but only use them if you are prepared to pay!


Tip: Main train stations in India are where a lot of the big 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 its 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!


14 Tourist Scams in India to be Aware

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

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

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!


14 Tourist Scams in India to be Aware

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 boys pocket, so always keep an eye out with what’s happening around you.


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!

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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!


12. Picking up a friend scam

This is one of the scams in India done by rickshaw drivers.  The drive might say that he needs to pick up my friend.  If they do that, the friend usually have an alternative motive of scamming you by taking you to a ‘tourist office’ or something worse.  Ladies, never say yes to having a drivers friend come too for your own safety.


14 Tourist Scams in India to be Aware

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 service man.


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 is 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 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!!


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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, this should NOT put you off India.  I actually find the scams 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 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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  • Reply
    December 8, 2015 at 2:27 am

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

  • Reply
    Tom and Sheila
    January 3, 2016 at 5:30 pm

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

  • Reply
    5 Entirely False and Stupid Misconceptions About India – Anita Hendrieka
    January 7, 2016 at 7:06 am

    […] them below because I would love to hear them.  I also have lots of posts about India including ‘Scams of India’ and ’Does India Really Change You?’, you should read […]

  • Reply
    Vanessa Workman
    April 24, 2016 at 12:27 pm

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

    • Reply
      Anita Hendrieka
      May 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Glad you found them helpful Vanessa! 🙂

  • Reply
    Canada Points Guy
    June 3, 2016 at 11:26 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Carmen Taveira Smith
    February 21, 2017 at 2:20 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Tripti Singh
    April 22, 2017 at 2:34 am

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

  • Reply
    July 24, 2017 at 5:47 pm

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

  • Reply
    David from travelscams.org
    August 14, 2017 at 3:41 am

    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!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Tucson Traveler
    October 12, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    “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!!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2018 at 1:19 am

    Great views and replies every traveller should know about

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