BEWARE! Watch Out For These Travel Scams In India!

By Rohin Raj on Aug 12, 2016
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Every year millions of tourists flock to India - The Land of Mystique, in search of peace, spirituality and a lesson in history. Out of these millions, probably thousands are duped at some point of their travels, and this results in scarring their trip-of-a-lifetime! Having faced a similar situation just recently, I did some research and to ensure that none of my fellow travelers have to face such a horrendous experience, have come up with a list of some of the most infamous scams prevalent in India:

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1. Not My Hotel Bro!

On your drive to the hotel you might have in mind, the driver might claim that the hotel is full, closed or undergoing repairs. He might suggest another hotel with which he would have a commission based tie-up. He might also take you to a hotel with the same name as yours, and claim it to be the same one. The receptionist is in cahoots with the driver and will ask for an exorbitant amount of money for poor facilities.
Solution: Always pre-book your hotel and confirm all details beforehand via phone and e-mail. If not, then check your GPS to verify the location of your hotel.

2. The Taxi Scam!


Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
This might be the very first scam that you may encounter as soon as you get out of the airport or train station. Taxi and auto drivers will gather around you and literally try to pull you into their cab/auto. Once you are seated inside, they will claim the meter is broken and the amount they quote will be some 10X times of what it actually should be.
Solution: Strike a bargain with the driver before sitting inside their vehicle. Better yet, head for a pre-paid taxi stand or a government approved taxi provider. 

3. Dude, Where’s My Money?

At the time of checking-in at your hotel, the receptionist might ask for a deposit or the tariff in advance. When you’ll be checking out he might just ‘forget’ about the deposit, keep it as damages or ask for the rent again when you might have already paid.
Solution: Ensure that you get receipts for any payment or cash transaction that you might make. Also when you are checking in, point out any damages in the room and click a few pictures before taking possession.

4. The Beggar Conundrum!

This one might be a tricky situation. Small kids or physically challenged beggars might approach you and instead of asking you for alms, they will instead ask you to buy them food or stuff like pens, notebooks etc. instead. This might just motivate you to get them the stuff not realizing that usually the beggars have a tie-up with the shopkeeper and they will just return the items in exchange for some money.
Solution: Ensure that whatever you may have bought, the beggar eats or uses it up in front of you. This can be especially used for food items.

5. Tampered Water Bottles!


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Many people always insist on buying mineral water bottles as their tummies might be sensitive to the local water. But not many are aware that there is a full-fledged scam in which people collect used water bottles, fill tap water and sell them again as brand-new bottles.
Solution: Get your water bottles from good, dependable shops or retail stores. Check the bottle for signs of damage and tempering, and in case of the slightest doubt chuck the bottle aside. Better to be safe than sorry!

6. Sham Offices!

It may happen that at times of emergency, you might end up going to fake offices for ticket bookings, thinking that they are genuine, government authorized booking offices. These touts will misguide you and end up giving tickets at expensive prices and that too for very poor seats.
Solution: Ask for some proper identification before booking, look out for any signs of suspicious activities and best if you ask for guidance from the local law enforcement office. 

7. Wrath of the God-man!


If you are in a holy city or near a famed building of faith, then so-called holy men might just meet you on the way and tie something on your hand, hand you an amulet or simply bless you with an offering and apply a tilak on your forehead. Everything will look good, till suddenly the holy-man starts demanding a fee in return. Probably he would threaten you by cursing you with infinite bad luck!
Solution: Accept any such offering only from the inside of a holy building. If threatened with curses, simply walk away as the curses of a stooge are hardly gonna cause any harm anyways.

8. Inflated Prices!

If you plan on indulging in some shopping then better get ready to be surprised with some rather expensive quotations. Almost all shopkeepers, on seeing that you are a tourist will increase their prices by various multiples! So a handicraft or show-piece that might be worth a 100 bucks will be sold to you for no less than 1,000!
Solution: You will have to use a combination of wit, bargaining prowess and some basic idea about the cost of items being sold. One easy way to get out of this is to take a trusted local with you who will easily be able to bargain for you.

9. Fake Police!

You might get caught up in a situation where, while traveling in a taxi, the police might stop your vehicle on the way. They might end up blaming you for some inane reason and demand money as a bribe or fine. The driver will shut his mouth and leave you to haggle with the police, of whom there is a good chance of being imposters. Just to finish off the tormenting experience you might end up shelling out all your cash.
Solution: Demand to see proper identification, if there is any fault with the vehicle then it is not your fault, but the drivers. Also, save local emergency helpline numbers to contact and confirm if the policemen present are genuine or not.

10. Nothing Is Complimentary!


Image Source: David Berkowitz/Flickr
You might be suddenly serenaded by a group of singing, dancing people, performers or magician who will immediately start with their performance. Out of politeness, you might just wait up til the end of the performance. After a round of applause, the performer will hand you a rate card or simply quote an exorbitant amount of money and tell you to pay. His accomplices may gang up on you and not let you leave until you cough out the moolah. This might even happen if you try to take a picture with someone's camel or elephant.
Solution: At the start of the performance make it clear that you are not going to pay anything for the act. If not interested in the performance, simply apologize and walk away before he/she begins. 

11. Inflated Bills!

This one is a relatively lesser known trick that may have duped tourists as well as locals too! After a nice time of partying, boozing and gorging when the bill comes to you, there might be a couple of items on the tab, which you might not remember ordering.  On pointing it out, the waiter will promptly subtract the cost of these items and again hand over the bill. What you forget is that the taxes have already been added to the previous bill which was relatively higher than the new one!
Solution: Ask your most sober friend to scan the bill properly and just keep care that you ask for a fresh bill with revised tax costs.

12. Fake SIM Cards!

Getting a SIM card in India is a long and cumbersome process. There are various document verifications and formalities to be followed. You might chance upon a person selling a SIM card without these documentations. Beware! The number might have been involved in some criminal activity or you would end up getting random phone calls from unknown people. Or simply the SIM may stop working in a few days.
Solution: Get you SIM cards only from official company outlets that are available all over the city.

13. Something Strange With The Change!


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While paying your cab driver, booking tickets or while purchasing some items it might just happen that you hand over a 1000 Rupee note to the person and when you are expecting to get back some change, the shopkeeper might put his hand out for the rest of the amount. He will claim that you only gave him a 100 Rupee bill. His accomplice might also start pressurizing you into believing that indeed you might have given the wrong note to him.
Solution: Before handing over the money, always announce loudly and clearly the amount you are handing over to the person concerned. Make sure that he acknowledges your statement beforehand. 

14. The Guide You Didn’t Want!

While touring through historically significant cities it may happen that you ask for directions or a basic question or two from a local. The friendly local might accompany you for a short distance or appear extra-happy to solve your queries. Just as you might turn away, thanking him for his help he will start demanding money for his ‘guidance’. If you refuse to pay, he would involve you in a shouting match and possibly threaten you until you pay up.
Solution: Stick to asking for directions and help from shopkeepers, from whom you might have purchased something as small as a packet of biscuits or a gum. Or if you a good judge of character, then wisely choose a person before asking.

15. The Usain Bolt Meter!

If and when you get a taxi or auto with a running meter, still be careful about the speed with which the meter might move. If you are not careful enough, you may end up paying more than you bargained for at the start of the trip.
Solution: If you feel that the meter has been tampered with, then try to catch hold of a policeman and tell him about your quandary. If not, then politely yet very sternly tell the driver that you are aware of his trick and won’t pay the exorbitant amount that the meter is showing.
Know of any more slick tricks that you might have encountered on your journey? Do tell us by writing in the comments section below!
*Note: Some images used are for representational purpose only! 
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