Travel Scams in India and How to Avoid Them
Ugly side while travelling to india
Being the seventh largest country in the world by area and the second largest in terms of population, India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Boasting a plethora of euphoric sites, vibrant cultures, and rich heritage, India attracts millions of tourists every year from around the world.
But behind its exquisite side, there lies an ugly side as well. Like in any travel hotspot across the world, there is a bevy of scams in India that tourists fall for. Having travelled to several parts of the country, I have been on the receiving end of quite a few scams, too. Following are the most infamous travel scams you should be aware of:
1. Paid Blessing -
From Rishikesh to Hampi, for Pokhara to Varanasi, most of the religious places are home to several scammers. They dress up like a saint/monk and offer to give you their blessings. With the hope to get enlightened, you accept their blessings. And then, they ask for a small donation in the name of God. Believing that what they are doing is something wonderful, you pay them, without knowing that a genuine holy person would never ask for money in return for giving their blessings.
2. Counterfeit Money -
It takes time to understand the authenticity of various foreign currency notes if you have seldom used it before. There are some people who take advantage of such cases and fool the tourist. For instance, if you give a shopkeeper INR 2000, he may return counterfeit notes to you which looks quite similar to the original currency notes. Also, a lot of visitors are not aware of the fact that certain currency notes - INR 500 (printed before 2017) and INR 1000 - which were once officially used in India - are no longer official.
3. Dynamic Prices -
While it is a universal concept officially implied by the government of almost every country, it is something that is also used by locals to exploit the visitors. What is sold for INR 200 to the locals, become INR 2000 for the visitors. This scam is not just limited to shopkeepers only. It can be found everywhere. From local transport where the conductor charges you multiple folds extra money to the restaurant that provides you with a different menu with hiked prices.
4. Paid Gifts -
On my visit to Amritsar's Golden Temple, a man came towards me a gifted me a piece of "holy" cap. I said I have one already, but he insisted that I keep it. I thanked him and started walking away. He chased me and asked for Rs. 100 for it. I immediately returned the piece of cloth and walked away. He chased but I did not react. Unfortunately, this kind of scam is quite popular in India. First, they will gift you something, and then ask for money.
5. Fake Travel Agency -
This can be found in pretty much every tourist hotspot. You go to them and they will sell you fake tickets, over-charge you, or charge you for things that are actually meant to be free. For instance, if you want an AC train ticket from A to D, which actually costs INR 3000 (for AC II tier). They'll give you an AC III tier ticket for the same price although the difference is of INR 1000.
6. Over-friendly Local -
In many parts of India, foreign tourists are treated as celebrities. While most stare at them or ask for a selfie, some try to be user-friendly. Chances are, they may run away with your personal belongings as soon as they can. In some cases, they may ask you about your travel plans and give you suggestions and once they have your trust, they will ask you for some monetary benefits.
7. Taxi Scam -
This is one of the most common scams not just in India, but all over the world. The driver may take a longer route so that you have to pay more than you should. Or he may say that the metre is not working, so pay xyz amount as that is the fair price from the pick-up point to your destination. They may also charge you more for your luggage. At times, if the driver breaks a traffic rule, traffic police may stop the taxi and fine the driver for it. Even if the driver asks you to pay for it, you should not be paying for it.
8. Unofficial Fine by Traffic Police -
Many people have complained that they get fined by traffic police during a trip to some touristy place in India. Exploiting your lack of knowledge about the local traffic rules, there are some traffic policemen who take unfair advantage of their uniform. They may ask you to pay fine for something as silly as driving in the night or for riding a bike without its papers. Being a rented a vehicle, you obviously will not be carrying its papers, but to get away, you decide to pay the fine. That money will go straight into the pocket of that traffic policeman. Even petty issues are meant to be neglect by the traffic policemen if they are convinced that you were not aware of the rule since you are just a visitor.
9. Damaged Rented Vehicle -
Albeit this scam is not that popular in India as it is in Southeast Asia, it still exists, especially in the backpacking hotspots. Rental companies rent you a vehicle on a day to day basis, and when you return it, they complain about a pre-existing scratch or issue with the vehicle. You may argue that you did not have any role to play in it, but you will not be able to prove it. They know that it was not because of you, yet they will charge you for it.
10. Pick Pocketing -
Pick pocketing is a universal travel scam which has been around for several decades. Sad to admit, it is fairly common in India, at crowded places. Pickpockets use various techniques such as distracting your mind somewhere else so that they can easily steal your wallet or your phone.
11. Beggars -
The begging segment in India is one of the biggest scams in the country. It is a multi-million dollar industry in India. It is not that all beggars are fake, but many of them are. People enact beggars and get money from people who believe they are genuinely beggars. The tricks include a young woman begging with a sleeping baby, a man limping on one foot, and skinny children asking. What you fail to notice is that the baby is not crying because it is drugged, the man limping on one foot has his second leg hidden inside the pants, the skinny children have all the means to study, but they would rather get money by not doing anything. A huge proportion of the money given in alms to the "beggars" goes to the underworld organizations.
12. Unofficial Guide -
Guide scams are usually found near historical sites. At every popular historical place in India, there will be a number of guides requesting the visitors to hire their services. But not all of them are official guides. An official guide will never chase after the visitors. If you hire the services of the unofficial guides, they may not provide you with proper information about the site, not show you every part of the site, or convince you to buy souvenirs from a particular shop and have food at a particular cafe in order to earn commission from them.
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