India is, without a doubt, an incredible place. A mixture of sounds, smells, and colors. A trip there is easily going to change your perspective on life and being more appreciative of all the things we take for granted in our countries.
Unfortunately, India is also the world’s capital of scams. From the moment you’ll leave the airport after a long flight, you may be approached by people trying to scam you. And believe me, you don’t want to start your vacation like this.
Below are the 8 most common tourist scams in India, and how to avoid it.
YOUR HOTEL HAS MOVED, CLOSED OR DOESN’T EXIST
This scam sounds stupid, right? I mean, who would fall for something like this? Well, apparently a lot of first-time visitors to India. How does it happen? Simple. The cab driver you already prepaid at the airport pretends to call your hotel just in time to inform you that it no longer exists. Or it’s fully booked. Or that the roads leading to it are closed. And the “good samaritan” will proceed by suggesting to you a different place (where he gets a commission) and asks you for a fee to take you there.
How to avoid a situation like this? Just book your transfer directly with your hotel or hire a driver for your entire stay.
THE TAXI METER DOESN’T WORK
Cab drivers are probably the best scammers of India, and they try their best to reap you off. Besides the “hotel scam,” other common tactics include taking a very long route to get you to your destination. Or, more often, they would tell you that the taxi meter is not working (non-metered taxis, by the way, are illegal) and try to bargain a price that will double before you reach your destination.
Solutions? Just have a map downloaded on your phone and be sure you show it to your driver (he’ll understand you have the situation under control). And refuse to pay a “fixed price”: a good way is to say you’ll call the police and the taxi meter will magically start working again.
THE FAKE SIM CARDS
Having a local sim card while on the other side of the world can be pretty convenient. But be careful: getting a real sim card in India involves lots of paperwork, passports, and pictures. Buying a sim card from street vendors or “unofficial ways” will likely mean you’ll get something that won’t work. Also, the vendor will probably tell you that you need to recharge your card with a lot of money to make it work. Which, obviously, is not the case.
THE BABY MILK SCAM
Beggars are all over the place in India. And they do know how to be convincing. Someone will ask you to buy (overpriced) baby milk at the local shop. Good action, right? Not exactly since the beggar will go back to the shop and return the milk for money. The same happens with kids asking you to buy them pens.
Remember when everyone told you to be extremely cautious with drinks and food? This is particularly important in India. Buying a bottle of water is not a warrant of safety. In fact, sometimes vendors would refill the bottles with tap water and seal it with glue. So be extra careful and inspect it well before drinking or just go to trusted vendors, markets, or restaurants.
THE GIFT SCAM
During your trip to India, someone will likely try to give you a “gift” like putting a bracelet on your wrist just in time to ask you to pay for it.
DEALING WITH BEGGARS
As said before, beggars are everywhere in India. Children, elderlies, young men, and women. They will ask you for money or to buy things. Even when sitting in your car, if you stop at a red light, they will knock your car. The only not-so-nice-but-inevitable way I found to survive was just to ignore them. Don’t look at them, don’t talk to them. As harsh as it may sound, keep in mind that almost all of the beggars (especially kids) work for criminal gangs. If you want to donate money, look for a reliable charity institution.
VERIFY THE CHANGE
And do it every-single-time. At hotels, restaurants, the train station. Everyone can make a “mistake,” and in India, this is quite common. So be extra careful and always count your change right away.
As you might understand, planning a trip to India involves a lot of research and planning and it’s totally worth it. Spend an extra hour reading or looking for a reliable tour company. It will save you a lot of hassle.
Have you ever been a victim of a scam?
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