tourist scams in India

Tourist scams and how to avoid them

Like every country in the world, travelers will come across a number of different scams as they travel. Some scams are common world over while a few are more or less unique to a country or city. Following is  a list of some scams which foreign as well Indian tourists can expect to face.

1) Taxis at airport:  A lot of taxi drivers you will see on airport trying to get your business are dishonest scammers who will find ingenious ways to scam you. A lot of scams described in this article are done by these guys like the next one The most common one is overcharging by saying meter not working. Avoid this by using a radio taxi service like Meru, Ola, Easy cab and a few others. Some have their counters on airport. It’s also a good idea to book a taxi before your arrival.

2) Taking you to wrong address: Some taxi drivers will claim that they can’t find the address you want to go to or the hotel has closed or burnt down. Then they will take you to a hotel of THEIR choice which will overcharge you quite a bit. If they try to convince you by asking for directions or talking on phone, be sure that the people they are talking with are in the scam already.

3) Fake tourist Offices : This one is the most common and easily avoidable. While walking on streets you will see offices with signboards reading “Indian Tourism Office”, “Railways Ticket Reservation Center”, “Ministry of Tourism” etc. Avoid these offices at all costs. These people pose as official representatives of official ministries to get business. Your taxi drivers or touts on streets will almost always take you to these offices for rest, directions or advice.  Anything that they tell you is meant to help fill their pockets, not you.

4) People on street trying to “help” : While walking on streets, if you find random people trying to strike up conversation, offering to help you find a place etc, ignore them and be on your way. They are mostly agents of fake “tourist offices” described in point 3 or shady hotels, untrustworthy travel agents etc. Sometimes they are pickpockets or thieves.

tourist scams in India

5) Pashmina, Cashmere shawls: Whatever you buy, don’t buy any  Pashmina or Cashmere shawls, scarves or anything like that on face value. Almost every single shop claiming to sell authentic Pashmina stuff is selling silk or synthetic blends. Unless you are absolutely sure about the material, don’t spend too much on this stuff.

6) Shopping : Your driver or guide taking you to a “friend’s/cousin’s shop or workshop” for a rest stop, showing stuff etc. is another kind of scam. Almost everything in such shops or workshops is overpriced by twice or thrice the fair price and a major cut goes to the guy who brings you there. It also happens with a lot of places your driver will recommend for food. A lot of restaurants on sides of highways are expensive by default anyway though.

7) People offering free gifts: A lot of times, this is just harmless, but a lot of times some people like kids on street, priest in some temple or mosque will give you something like a flower or band as a “gift” and try to guilt trip you in to parting with some money or just outright demand it. You will have to use your own judgement to know which one is real gift and which one is scam.

8) Beware of rickshaw pullers: Rickshaw pullers and auto-rickshaw drivers in almost all cities in India try their best to squeeze every last penny out of their clients by hook or crook. Most of them will try not to understand you if it doesn’t suit them. Some are good, but unless you have a grip on what’s going on in the city, routes and fair prices, give them a miss. In cities like Delhi, radio taxis taxis might be slightly more expensive but much more comfortable and safer.


Most of these cams are easy to spot and even easier to avoid as explained with each one. You can avoid most of these inconveniences by being alert and street smart. Most of the times, it’s the tourists traveling on their own which face these kind of scams. If you are using a reputable tourist company to plan your journey, most of these problems are gone by default. Although most of such scams are limited to bigger cities and touristy places,  it’s necessary that you be careful everywhere. In general,  places with lots of tourists will have a lot of touts and scammers. There are good people who will do everything in their capability to help tourists, but you need to trust your judgement and gget a feel of the place first.

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