One thing I have learnt on my backpacking adventure of India is the array of scams that are dealt to you on a silver platter every day. Here are some that I have experienced and that you need to watch out for!
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!
Main train stations in India are where a lot of the big scams happen. There are many you need to watch out for:
-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.
-“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!
– 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!
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.
When in Varanasi I got bloody scammed 3 times in day.
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 a boat tour!
Then, while the boat ride was happening, an older man (with a rude attitude) placed an offering without me even noticing, on my lap. I had no choice but to put it into The Ganges and then pay for the bloody thing. He then angrily said 150 Rupees, I said no and chucked him 20 Rupees. Needless to say, he was very pissed off! Keep away from the people in the boats trying to sell stuff!
Last scam of the day in Varansai was after the ceremony had finished at the Dwayath Ghat. A little boy ran up and placed a dot on my forehead before I could even say no. 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! He also got very pissed off when I only gave him 20 rupees.
A random stranger might even 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. However much it pisses you off try to avoid kicking them in the head.
Another one which I have had in even Paris is the free bracelet trick. 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 to pay!
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!
A scam 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.
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!!
Top tips to avoid a scam?
- Politely decline and next time just say ‘No English’ in an unusual accent. I promise 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!
- If you can’t be bothered being hassled put in your headphones and set your volume to high so you can shut out the crap!
- Keep yourself to yourself and only ask officials that are wearing proper uniforms for advice.
- Trust nobody, but don’t let that get in the way of taking offers from genuine people trying to help you.
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 about 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! If you want to know about the WORST accommodation in Delhi then read this, it’s a funny story. If you need accommodation then head to Booking.com or Agoda, I highly recommend them. Don’t forget to check the reviews on Trip advisor to avoid even more scams, yes MORE scams!