On January 1, 2016 we returned to India. We landed in Delhi early in the morning and we were so excited to be back here, in India! But it didn’t last long, as during the first hours in Delhi we met professional scammers who tried to trick us into buying an expensive tour to Agra and Jaipur. These men told us that it is dangerous in Delhi right now and we should leave the city immediately. But we didn’t believe them and it turned out to be the right decision.
In this article I will tell you more about this and few other tourist scams in India, that we have experienced during our visits.
Before I start, please note: although we have experienced scams in India and some mean people have tried to trick us (without success), we don’t hate India and Indians. No, not at all. As everywhere in the world there are good places and there are bad places. The same as there are good people and bad people.
Delhi is not a nice place, for instance. Both from our experience and what locals have said to us. But even there, when you get used to it and understand which places to avoid and how to deal with scammers, it gets easier.
1. “Official” Tourist Office Scam
So, this is the most complicated and, let’s say, meanest trick we have experienced while in India.
We were at New Delhi Railway station. And we wanted to get to the other side of the station, where Pahar Ganj is located. This area is known as backpackers district of New Delhi, where you will find a lot of cheap guesthouses and hotels.
There is a bridge over the tracks, but I suggested that we try to go through the station building. When we went inside the station, and headed to stairs (everyone was going there), a man approached us and asked do we have tickets. We in turn asked how to get to the other side, and that’s when he told that it is not possible today.
As it is dangerous there right now and we need to have a tourist permit to enter the area of Pahar Ganj.
Few minutes later we were in a tuktuk, driving to Official Tourist Office, to get the permit.
When we got to this Official Tourist Office, guy working there told us that he can’t give us the permit, because we don’t have a hotel reservation. We told him that we will book a hotel in Pahar Ganj now, in some Internet Café and come later.
But he told us that it is not possible – every hotel in Pahar Ganj is closed, as well as Internet Cafes. Hotels are closed to foreigners because Pahar Ganj is now at high risk of a terrorist attack and Internet Cafes are not working because it is 1st of January.
Then the same guy tried to sell us some overpriced tours to Agra and Jaipur, because, as he said, every train and bus was fully booked for that day. And it is when we started to think that something smells fishy here. So we left the place. We were right, there were no any dangers in Delhi.
Read more about Official Tourist Office Scam in Delhi.
2. Train Ticket Scam
You are going to The International Tourist Bureau in New Delhi Railway Station to buy a train ticket. Official-looking man stops you at the station’s parking and asks you to show a train ticket. He won’t let you in without the train ticket.
When you tell him that you will buy ticket at the railway station, in the International Tourist Bureau, he tells you that this bureau is closed today (or permanently; or they have moved the bureau someplace else). He will guide you to the “Official Tourist Office” (or the “New International Tourist Bureau”, depends on his story), telling you that this is the only place where to buy train tickets.
The men there will either sell you ticket for a higher price or they will say, that there are no train tickets available. And this is when they will offer you to travel by VIP bus or taxi. They might sell you non existent train or bus tickets as well.
As you can imagine, taxi is far from being the cheapest method of transportation. Especially, if we are talking about few hundred kilometer long journeys.
From our experience – just push through these men, if necessary, and go to the station.
Read more about traveling by train in India.
3. Connaught Place Touts – New Delhi
When walking around Connaught Place – central part of New Delhi, some touts may approach you and offer a free map of Delhi. They won’t have it with them but they will tell you that you can get one in the tourist office. You don’t know where is the tourist office? These guys will offer you to guide you there.
Most probably it will be one of the fake Official Tourist Offices (see point 1).
After giving you a map of Delhi they will ask you things like – how long are you staying in India, where do you plan to go and when, do you have tickets already and so on. You can imagine what’s coming next. The same story – trains are fully booked, take a taxi.
When we came to India for the first time, our intention was to travel across India on bicycles. So when men in the “Official” Tourist Office heard about our upcoming adventure, they couldn’t think of any trick because they were too impressed with our answer, haha. To cycle across India, wow!
4. All Hotels Are Full Because Of Doctors’ Conference
Let’s call it “All hotels are full because of [put a name of any big public event here] scam”.
We were visiting Agra with Kaspars’ s parents. After we arrived to Agra train station, we took a taxi to Agra city center. While driving in the car, the taxi driver mentioned that there is a doctors’ conference in Agra. He told us that all the hotels are full today, but he knows a very good one, which is not fully booked yet.
It is called Maya hotel. We googled it while driving in the car and found out that it is just an average hotel, where many Western tourists are brought by taxi drivers. Apparently cabbies earn some commission for every client.
But still we agreed to see this hotel, there is no harm in it, right? The hotel was in the city center, where we planned to search for an accommodation, anyway.
After seeing the rooms, we asked about the price – it was too high. Yes, this hotel is nice, but not worth the money, in our opinion. Well, to be clear, most of hotels in Agra are overpriced.
We told the driver that we are not going to stay there, we will find someplace else. He reminded us that it may be impossible because of this doctors’ conference. In turn we told him that we will take a look at the hotel across the road, and told him to go.
But anyway he went with us. At the same moment we entered the lobby, taxi driver quickly said something to the receptionist. When we asked about the rooms, receptionist told us that all the rooms are booked. Taxi driver said: “See? Like I said. Hotels are full today. Let’s go to Maya hotel.”
Of course, we didn’t go. Because we didn’t want to pay few times more than we would normally pay for a budget hotel room in India. So we refused (again!) and walked further down the road. Just few hundred meters ahead were few more hotels and in one of them we took a room for half the price of what they asked in Maya hotel.
Not even a single of these hotels was fully booked. In fact, the city seemed empty.
One more thing – Kaspar’s brother went to the second hotel (just opposite Maya Hotel), where earlier the receptionist informed that they were fully booked. They weren’t in fact. Looks like it was just a trick to persuade us to stay in that particular hotel, so the taxi driver would get the commission.
5. Birthday Party Scam – Jaipur
It happened during our first trip to India. We were in Jaipur. There we stayed in one of the most popular budget hotels (I don’t remember the name). One day a guy working there invited us to his relative’s birthday party in just few blocks from the hotel. Guy seemed very nice and friendly, so we took his offer and went to the “birthday party”.
It was our first month in India and we were a little bit inexperienced, haha.
Turned out it wasn’t a birthday party, far from it. What a surprise, eh?
The guy led us to his friend’s textile shop. They gave us some snacks and coke and invited to sit on the cushions with the owner of the shop. There were few other tourists as well. Some of them were trying on and buying stuff. One girl was sitting together with us.
We sat and chatted for a while. Owner and his friend (a guy from the hotel) asked us the same questions everyone asks you when traveling – where are you from, how long you will stay in India, what you plan to visit and so on. In between all these questions the guy, who brought us here, was encouraging us to take a look at the clothes in the store. He told us that looking is for free (no sh**?!) and we don’t need to buy anything if we don’t want to.
Of course, we left very soon.
By the way, they are quite persuasive. When you will tell, that you have a small backpack, you don’t have free space in it, they will offer to send the purchase to you home address. “Shipping is cheap, we have many satisfied customers!”
My advice. When you see that the friendly guy is leading you to the shop, don’t go inside. Put your serious face on, say that you won’t go inside, turn around and walk away. You will save your time.
6. Reduced Taxi or Rickshaw Fare (but I will take you to the shop first)
We were visiting Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi with Kaspars’s parents. We went there by metro and last few kilometres from the station we went by tuktuk. And we wanted to do the same on our way back. So we approached tuktuk drivers to negotiate the price.
One of them offered to take us to some very popular market, which is near Connaught Place, for half of the price. It would make our journey shorter, but we didn’t want to go to any market and besides this offer smelled fishy. So we rejected it politely.
Yes, of course, this tout was very pushy. Like all of them. And he tried and tried, and tried to persuade us to go to that market. We said, that we will go only to the metro station and nowhere else. After he refused to take us there, we approached another tuktuk driver. As by most of tourist attractions, there were quite a lot of them.
And all of them refused to take us to the metro station just in two kilometers.
Why don’t you want to visit this beautiful market? They asked us. We went to look for another tuktuk. The touts were calling after us like – hey, where are you going!? And laughing. Crazy people.
What would happen if we went with any of these tuktuk drivers? I can only guess. Most probably they would take us to a textile or jewelry shop, or even to few of them. Then they would persuade us to buy something. Then if we would say that we didn’t like anything, they would just drop us at another shop hoping that we will buy something and he will get commission!
7. Pushkar Lake Scam
I haven’t had this scam attempted on me, because I ran away (yes, literally!! I walked away very quickly) when a “Holy man” approached me and asked if I want to take part in some religious ceremony. But Kaspars and his brother experienced it first hand.
So, “Holy man” says that this ceremony is for free, but it isn’t. During this ceremony man asks how many members one has in his family. He blesses every one of them and then, after the ceremony,… he asks for money! The amount of money depends on a number of family members! Smart, eh? Let’s say – 100 rupees for each family member. Some of them could even try and persuade one to pay 20, 50… Euros or Dollars, because “You are from a very rich country!”
After Kaspars was asked to give some money, first he wanted to give 100 rupees. But man didn’t take it and asked for more.
And when Kaspars left, without paying anything, man shouted, that this is not Europe, it’s India, and prayers aren’t just words. Imagine, when I walked away from Pushkar lake, the Holy man ran after me and yelled: “Come back!!! Where are you going?”
8. Your Bus isn’t Coming – Take a Taxi
Don’t believe it straight away! Especially if the one saying this to you is a driver of taxi or tuktuk.
If you are in the bus station, ask around. If you see a plaque which reads the name of your destination, go there and ask someone. If the people are standing there already, that means your bus is coming sooner or later. Just ask someone else first to be sure.
When we are traveling by local bus in Goa, we always ask only bus drivers and conductors. These man have been a huge help to us.
To be updated.
There are many other scams in India. Those listed above are what we have experienced.
And I really hope, that you still want to visit India! I wrote this article to help you with your travels in India, not to discourage you!
Author: Una Baufala
Una is a traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. Apart from traveling and exploring new places she loves to read books. And she adores cats. Together with Kaspars they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since October 2013. WeAreFromLatvia.com is where she shares her travel experiences.