Five Tourist Scams to be Aware of in India

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Written by: Helen Scarr

India is probably the most fascinating, invigorating and bamboozling country in the world, and everyone should endeavor to visit at least once. Like anywhere else in the world though, it does have its fair share of scams designed to rip off unwitting tourists, so make sure you avoid these five key ones when you find yourself there.

The government tourist office

This scam is common in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai. A friendly local will introduce himself to you and offer to show you to the government tourist office. He’ll proclaim to want nothing in return – he just wants to help out a tourist. In actual fact he’ll take you to an overpriced and unofficial tourist office (if they aren’t in a uniform they don’t work for the government) and receive a healthy commission if you spend any money in there. It’s best to politely decline his offer.

Traffic in Delhi, India

The toilet toll

Across Asia it’s not unusual to have to pay a small fee to use a public toilet. Even if it is a squat toilet in a filthy roadside shack. Some toilets will have an attendant in residence that may offer toilet paper and, if you’re lucky, soap. They’ll expect you to pay for the privilege, and around 10 rupees (10p) is the normal rate per visit. They are liable to try their luck and ask you for as much as 100 rupees, sometimes even blocking the exit until you cough up. Don’t hand over more than 10p!

The broken rickshaw metre

All rickshaws across India are supposed to charge by the metre. The drivers will frequently tell you the metre is broken, or that they don’t have one, and then barter a price in order to make a bit of extra money. Unless you know exactly how much your journey should cost you’re almost definitely going to overpay without a metre. There’ll always be another rickshaw along in a minute or two.

The rigged rickshaw metre

There is a metre rate in city rickshaws depending on time of day and distance covered. You must ensure that the driver has reset the metre before you jump in. Once you reach your destination you can double check the price using the driver’s fare card – a table of the different rates (locals can teach you how to read it). That way you can guarantee you are paying the correct amount for your journey.

A Delhi back street

Drugged tea on public transport

I’ve heard a couple of stories of travellers being offered tea by their neighbour on a train, then realising something is not right and that they may have been drugged. It is very uncommon but something to be aware of when in India. Never accept a drink from anyone unless you have seen them consume it first. If you are at all worried it’s better to politely decline and not take the risk. This is sometimes difficult when people really want to share with you and are practically forcing it into your hand, but be firm. Happily, the chai sellers running up and down the train carriages are safe to purchase drinks from.

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