‘India’ and ‘Scams’ are two words that a lot of people think go together. I get that and I understand why India is known for scams because tourist scams in India have been very common in the past.
After travelling India for nearly 6 months I have barely been scammed once! Perhaps because I’ve been aware of the popular scams in India, but also because I believe they are not as common in India as they once were.
For example, the Internet has changed the way people travel and especially how you travel to India. Before many taxi drivers would say ‘Your Hostel is closed, I need to take you to a new one’, ‘Your train is cancelled, I need to take you all the way’.
These were extremely common scams in India in the past but these days with backpackers and travellers to India having access to wifi in all accommodation and restaurants and the fact that most travellers get a local sim card when they arrive in India, these scams cannot be used anymore, because we can call our hostel or check the running time of our train online and tell that taxi driver ‘no, take me there, I know you’re wrong’.
With that being said, travellers to India do still get scammed, even if it’s just the once on their first day, especially when landing in Delhi because there are many people in Delhi are out to get tourists, I won’t lie about that! So to ensure you are prepared for your trip to India, here are common scams that happen in India and ways you can avoid them and look out for them in advance!
SIM CARD FOR INDIA
I really recommend having a sim card in India as it makes travel in India so much easier! You may have heard that it’s hard to get a sim card in India but you can get a sim card in Delhi Airport, read this post to see how to buy a sim card in Delhi Airport or if you fly in elsewhere 3 ways to buy a sim card in India and you’ll be connected in just a few hours!
WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIA
If you are a woman, here’s what I recommend you pack and wear in India. Technically you can wear what you like in India in most places but to get fewer stares and feel more comfortable, read my post!
DON’T GET SCAMMED IN DELHI
Most people arrive for the first time into Delhi and get scammed within a few hours! Read my Delhi Travel Tips to help you enjoy Delhi, and the best places to stay in Delhi which is so important!
Scams in India
Scam 1: ‘You Need a Ticket!’
Scam: You may have this shouted at you outside big, city train stations and New Delhi train station specifically.
The one thing you need to note is that you do not need to show your train ticket to anyone until you are on the train in India, ever!
If someone asks to see your ticket outside of the station this is some kind of scam / them poking their nose in where it’s not needed, and they will probably be trying to sell you a fake ticket, a new ticket or send you to the tourist information centre which will have a commission scam of some sort involved for the person who sent you.
Related Post: How To Book Trains in India as a Tourist Online!
Solution: If you want to show your ticket to them because you have one, then do, but don’t listen to anything they say after this. If you need to actually speak to someone about your ticket or buy a ticket at a train station in India, go to the official counter.
Do not speak to anyone outside of the train stations in India and remember that you do not need to show your ticket to anyone unless you are on the train or they are extremely professional looking.
How to get the best flights to India??
I use Skyscanner to book all of my flights! I’m a huge fan of Skyscanner because I love how easy it is to compare different destinations and different dates for the best price and route!
For example, I type in ‘everywhere’ in the destination if I have fixed dates and want to find the best flights on those dates on Skyscanner.
And if I have a set destination I’ll look at the ‘month view’ to check the cheapest days to fly in that month!
Scam 2: ‘Your Hostel is Closed!’
Scam: Your Taxi or Tuk-Tuk driver may tell you this very old school tourist scam in India. It’s not and it won’t be!
This might have been the case in the past when accommodation in India was of a very different standard but these days hostels and hotels in India are so modern and so busy, with not only foreign tourists but Indian tourists too. Your driver just wants you to book at the hotel his friend owns and he gets a commission on!
Related Post: The Best Hostels & Hotels in Delhi!
Solution: Firstly, tell you, driver, that it’s not closed. If they do not listen, if you have an Indian sim card, call your accommodation to confirm whilst the driver is listening, and even if you don’t have internet or a local sim, pretend to call and tell him they are open.
These days so many of us book accommodation online, I personally use booking.com for all of my India bookings, that even if it was closed for whatever reason, they will have called to tell you so do not listen and be persistent that it is open. If not, leave the driver and get another driver.
In fact, some of the hostels I’ve stayed in India send a welcome email and they say in there not to listen to drivers telling you that the hostel is closed because it’s not!
Scam 3: ‘The Road to Your Hotel is Closed’
Scam: This is an oldie but a goodie. Again this scam in India is to get to you not stay in your planned accommodation and stay in one that the driver gets a commission at.
Solution: The same as the above, call the hotel yourself, or pretend to and tell the driver that- no, it is open. If not ask him to drop you off as far as he can go, you’ll soon realise you can go all the way. However I must say, that this scam is probably one that is not as common in India anymore.
BOOKING TRAINS IN INDIA
India is best travelled by train because its the quickest, cheapest and best way of getting to know the country. For an EASY option of booking trains in India use 12GO to search and book trains really easily. If you’ll be in India for awhile, you can use the local booking system, it’s a bit tricker but possible, here’s my post on how to book trains in India as a tourist.
BEST ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA
I always use Booking.com to book my hotels in India and Hostelworld to book my hostels. India has a great range of accommodation with brilliant hostel chains like Moustache, Zostel and Backpacker Panda as well as homestays to luxury hotels.
GUIDED TOURS IN INDIA
Many cities in India are best seen with a guide, even if it’s just a half day tour on your first day. Cities in India are chaotic and complex and what better way to taste the food and get to know the city than with a local. I recommend Get Your Guide & Viator for the best tours in India!
Scam 4: ‘Your Train has been Cancelled!’
Scam: To be fair, this one is quite believable because the trains in India can often be delayed and in some cases cancelled. However, do not listen to a driver if it’s them that are telling you this because they will either want to take you all the way to your next destination or perhaps take you to a bus station where they will get a commission on this extra ticket.
Solution: There are many websites in India to help track your train, I personally use the website called trainman.in, on here you type in your PNR (the train confirmation number that is given to you), and it will tell you if the train is on time or not along with lots of other information like the carriage number and where to stand on the platform. This is the best way to check yourself while in a taxi whether it is delayed or not and I’d recommend this over asking people in the station in case they don’t speak good English.
With that being said, if your train is actually delayed, Indian train stations are not the best but they do have waiting areas and if you are in a higher class the waiting area is better so it’s always worth going to the station anyway and being there ready for when it does arrive.
Scam 5: ‘Your Hostel is Around Here’
Scam: Even once you have told your tuk-tuk driver or taxi driver where you are staying, they may get halfway there and tell you it’s ‘around here somewhere’. This is either a scam because they don’t want to take you all the way, or they genuinely do not know where it is which is still just as bad as you would have told them when you got in and they agreed to take you there.
Solution: Ensure you have a map which tracks your location on your phone and have pinned where your accommodation is. I have used maps.me for years for this and it’s saved me many times so I can clearly see where my accommodation is and where I am right now. A lot of the time I end up directing drivers to the accommodation myself.
Whether you have this or not, if you are not directly outside your accommodation do not get out until you are there and definitely do not pay until you are definitely there. If the driver does not speak good English encourage him to ask someone nearby for the location of where you’re staying.
To help ensure this doesn’t happen, get a quick judgement of your tuk-tuk or taxi driver before getting in, ask them at least once or twice ‘you know where X hotel is? Yes, do you?’. This way they have agreed to it and you know if they speak good English or not which will help with directions.
Scam 6: ‘It’s not 200Rs, it’s now 500Rs, the roads were so busy’
Scam: Following on from the above note, always confirm the price before getting into a taxi or tuk tuk. There is no way they can hold you to this but it’s common to practise in places like India and in Asia that what is agreed prior is what is charged.
This scam may even come from an Uber Driver in India where you have already been given a fixed price by the app and therefore is set as if there is traffic and the journey takes a lot longer, they are known to say that the price will now be higher.. but that’s not the point of Uber remember.
Solution: Do not pay any more than what was agreed. Hand over what you owe, get out and walk away. The biggest issue with this is not having the right change. If they say you actually owe 500Rs rather than 300Rs and all you have is a 500Rs note, get them to get the 200Rs change ready in their hand so when you give your money over you can get the change, if they do not seem willing to give change because they say it’s 500Rs, ask your accommodation or a nearby shop for change.
Scam 7: ‘I Do Not have any Change’
Scam: Having change for big notes is a problem in India, or at least sellers and drivers make out that it’s a problem so you’ll give them more instead of getting change, especially if it’s for a service you have already received, like transport, a meal or even a massage.
Solution: If the shop or a driver does not have change for your big note, tell them that’s all you have and that they’ll need to get change. Pretty much all of the time they can by going to next doors shop or speaking to another driver, they’ll just put on a front initially to see if you break or not and give the extra amount to them that you should have back. The best way to avoid this too is to save smaller notes for transport especially.
HELP WITH YOUR INDIA ITINERARY
I’ve spent many months travelling India in the last few years visiting over 50 places around the country, here are my recommended itinerary posts for India to help you plan your trip!
2 WEEK INDIA ITINERARY, PERFECT FOR YOUR FIRST TRIP!
2 WEEK SOUTH INDIA ITINERARY – GOA & KERELA
1 MONTH NORTH INDIA ITINERARY IDEAS!
1 MONTH SOUTH INDIA ITINERARY IDEAS!
2 MONTH INDIA ITINERARY IN THE NORTH & SOUTH
Top Tips To Avoid Scams in India
By reading this post and being aware of these scams you’re not only preparing yourself for India but also a lot of Countries around the world, especially South-East Asia, as they all happen there too!
As you can tell, most of them happen around transport so always have your guard up when actually travelling around India. Some ways you can do this are to:
Say you have been to the place before. If a taxi driver etc asks always say you have been to that place before, been to India before or that you’ve been in India for a while if it is at the start of your trip. Never say ‘yes this is my first time in India and it’s only my second day here!’.
Have the right change. Try and have small change on you at all times, it is hard but try to get change from big notes in restaurants or bigger shops and save the smaller change for transport and small independent shops.
Get an Indian Sim card so you have data and local calls. This is such a big help and one of the biggest ways to avoid scams in India I believe because it eliminates so many! With a local sim you can go on the internet and check information straight away, you contact your accommodation anytime whether you are on your way there or whether you need help whilst on a day out.
Hostel staff especially are so happy to help if you are staying with them, you can call them up for advice or put a driver on the phone to them so they can speak in their own language to help you out. Here’s how to get a sim card in India.
Make Friends. Once you’re on the train there’s not much that can happen but making friends with locals nearby through small talk is not only lovely but when getting off the train and trying to work out transport to my accommodation I’ve had those locals come up to me and make sure I’m ok before they leave.
Trust your instinct. Not a practical tip I know but try to trust what your gut is telling you. If you have already said yes to a tuk tuk driver but as you get in you feel weird about it because they don’t speak any English, get out and find someone else. Do not worry about hurting their feelings in this instance as what you felt may save you a lot of hassle.
Be Confident. Above all, always be confident, even if you do not know what you are saying is true, even if the train could well be cancelled, say confidently ‘no the train is not cancelled, please take me to the station now’. Confidence is key when you travel and especially in India to avoid any scams.
Now you’re set for your trip to India, check out these posts to help you plan your trip to India even more: