Tourist Scams in India and How to Avoid Them (2024)

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As a traveler, the attraction to visit Delhi and the whole country of India is difficult to avoid. Many people dream of visiting there because of its rich cultural History. However, among the enticing attractions comes a dark reality: the growing number of tourist frauds. Yes, I learned it the hard way during my first backpacking trip to Delhi. I had no idea that my first experience was only the beginning.

tourist scams in Delhi and India


How I Got Scammed on My First Time Backpacking Delhi

Once I left the Delhi airport, a crowd of unofficial “taxi helpers” overcome me just as vultures would do. However much I tried to dismiss them by waving my hand, one very obstinate fellow outsmarted me and entered into my pre-paid for taxi. With a sweet smile he told me that he will “guide” me to my hotel and charged some little money.

It was late at night when I had landed from a long flight hence I accepted his offer though reluctantly. It was one big mistake! That cabbie was in league with those people, and they put me through a horrible ordeal of being driven around aimlessly as well as made numerous stops at various dubious travel agencies and shops.

By the time we reached the place where I intended to spend my night, it turned out that they took away so much cash from me. The painful experience taught an important lesson – never drop your guard on anybody who insists on rendering unsolicited help or service at all cost.

tourist scams in Delhi and India

Delhi Taxi Scams and Tips for Taking a Taxi in India

Some common Taxi Scams:

  • Rigged meters that run faster than normal
  • Drivers claiming the meter is broken and demanding outrageous flat rates
  • Taking lengthy routes to rack up higher fares
  • Avoiding to pay for the meter and demanding on paying high price, which is always inflated.

To avoid these taxi abuses, I recommend using ride-sharing apps like Uber or Ola whenever possible. Prices are fixed and you can even share your driving information with friends for added security.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

Scams at New Delhi Railway Station

The New Delhi Railway Station is a known scamming center, Considering the fact that traveling by train can be an interesting way to explore India. Beware of people acting as “unauthorised employees” who will take your bag and ask for a large fee. Please decline their aid and transport your own baggage whenever possible.

For example, there are several touts that dupe passengers into purchasing counterfeit or expensive train tickets. Before paying for any ticket at a legitimate window, double-check the information against the data in your hands to ensure their accuracy.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

Scams at Connaught Place and Fake Tourist Offices

Delhi’s Connaught Place is a hive of activity with countless fraudsters masquerading as good Samaritans and tourism officials. They will entice you into their fake tourist centers where they apply a hard sell to get you to book absurd tour packages and buy dubious train tickets.

What’s more, official government tourist offices do not charge for information. On the other hand, once someone starts pushing tours or transportation options on you in an aggressive manner, it’s time to leave.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

A Little Learning… Avoiding the Most Common Tourist Scams in India

After giving you an overview of Delhi’s fraud, let’s look at some of the most common scams in India:

  • The Taxi Overcharge: As covered earlier, taxi drivers have plenty of tricks to inflate fares exorbitantly.
  • The Fake Charity Donation: Scammers, sometimes with children in tow, will aggressively demand money for a non-existent charity cause.
  • The Spiked Food/Drink Scam: Your refreshments get laced with sedatives, and you wake up robbed blind.
  • The Closed Monument Ruse: A “helpful local” will claim the site you want to visit is closed but offers to take you to an alternative location (which is usually a commission trap).


tourist scams in Delhi and India

Tell Me the Best Way to Avoid Scams in Delhi?

Scams in Delhi are like a multi-headed hydra; once you deal with one, two more emerge. However, by following these basic recommendations, you may securely explore the metropolis.

  • Research your hotels, tours, and transport options thoroughly before arriving. Book everything in advance through verified sources.
  • Be alert of anybody approaching you unexpectedly, particularly at airports, train stations, and large tourist attractions.
  • Avoid exploring deserted areas alone, especially at night.
  • Learn to politely but firmly say “no” to pushy touts and simply walk away.
  • Keep your personal belongings secured at all times.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation feels off, remove yourself immediately.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

11 Common Tourist Scams You Need to Avoid in India

While we’ve covered the highlights, here’s a quick rundown of 11 more common tourist scams prowling the streets of India:

  • The Spill Trick: Someone “accidentally” spills food/paint on you, and an accomplice swoops in to “help clean up” while picking your pockets.
  • The Fake Tour Guide: They offer guided tours for pricey fees and usually steer you towards overpriced shops for kickbacks.
  • The Friendship Bracelet Scam: Children try to tie “free” bracelets on your wrist and then aggressively demand money.
  • The Astrologer Trickster: Fake fortune-tellers read your future and use sleight of hand to steal your valuables.
  • The Counterfeit Goods Peddler: They sell you knock-off merchandise passing it off as the real deal.
  • The Photobombed Selfie: An accomplice will photobomb your selfie and then demand an extortionate “fee” to leave.
  • The Hotel Room Service Trick: Your hotel room gets cleared out when you order room service.
  • The Bait & Switch Scam: You’re promised one item/service but get something entirely different (and worthless).
  • The Barter Rip-off: Aggressive vendors haggle you into buying overpriced junk.
  • The Railway Station Luggage Scam: Fake porters charge inflated fees after forcibly taking your luggage.
  • The Slip ‘n’ Fall Scam: A scammer fakes injury on purpose and demands compensation.

As long as you keep your wits about you and steer clear of random offers or “too good to be true” deals, you’ll avoid falling for these scams.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

But Not Everyone in India Is Trying to Scam You!

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that every Indian is out to fleece you. Far from it! One of the greatest joys of traveling through this country is experiencing the inherent warmth and hospitality of its people. From the grandmotherly women who’ll insist on force-feeding you to the friendly strangers happy to show you around, you’ll encounter immense kindness at every turn.

The key is maintaining a balanced perspective. Be cautious, but don’t let fear prevent you from immersing yourself in the rich cultures. Approach with an open mind and heart, and you’ll create beautiful memories that transcend any initial scam encounters.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

Flower Tourist Scam (Pushkar, India)

Speaking of scams, let’s talk about the notorious Flower Scam that plagues Pushkar, a holy city in Rajasthan. Here’s how it goes down – you’ll be approached by someone asking if you want a “free flower garland blessing” which seems like a quaint cultural experience at first. However, once the flowers are draped around your neck, their accomplices will immediately start demanding exorbitant “donations” and get increasingly aggressive if you refuse to pay.

The best way to avoid this? Politely decline any unsolicited offers for blessings, garlands, or ceremonies. Don’t let the scammers lure you into owing them anything.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

How to Avoid Getting Scammed at Delhi Airport?

The minute you arrive at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, you’ll likely be swarmed by touts, unauthorized porters, and unregistered taxi drivers. Here’s how to navigate safely:

  • Completely avoid being approached or assisted by anyone outside the official terminals.
  • Only take airport-approved prepaid taxis from designated counters. Have your hotel address ready.
  • Politely but firmly decline any offers of “guidance” or “special deals.”
  • Keep your baggage close and carry only what’s necessary on your person.

Once you’re aware of the scams, the airport experience should be relatively smooth sailing.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

Essential Travel Planning Resources

careful travel planning is your first line of defense against scams. Here are some excellent resources to help prep for your Indian adventure:


Travel Apps:

offline Maps/Navi Apps:

tourist scams in Delhi and India

Scams When Arriving at Delhi Airport:

Getting from the Airport to Your Hotel As soon as you collect your baggage at Delhi Airport’s arrivals area, you’ll be set upon by unauthorized porters, taxis, and touts trying to hustle you. Don’t make eye contact, walk purposefully, and head straight for the official pre-paid taxi counters to get a legitimate cab to your hotel. If someone still approaches you, give them a firm “no thanks” and keep moving.

I can’t stress this enough – never accept unwelcome offers of “help” from friendly strangers at the airport. They’re most likely scammers looking to rip you off through overpriced taxis/services or accomplish theft.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

Scams Throughout India: The Begging for Essentials Scam and the “Picking Up a Friends” Scam

The Begging for Essentials Scam: A well-dressed individual approaches you claiming to be stranded or have some urgent necessity like medicine or baby food. They’ll pressure you for money with sob stories, hoping you’ll cough up cash out of sympathy. Don’t fall for it – it’s likely a ploy to prey on kind-hearted travelers.

The “Picking Up a Friend” Scam: Someone will befriend you under the pretense of picking up a friend or family member from the airport/railway station. Once they gain your trust, they’ll ask you to hold a bag/parcel for them while they go find their contact. Next thing you know, the bag is stuffed with contraband, and you’re left to deal with legal troubles! Never, ever accept random packages – even if they seem innocuous.


tourist scams in Delhi and India

Prepaid Taxi Scam and Auto Scams in Delhi

Even the prepaid taxi system at Delhi airports/stations isn’t immune to scams. Dishonest taxi drivers may:

  • Claim the meter is broken and demand outrageous flat rates.
  • Take lengthy, circuitous routes to inflate meter charges.
  • Use rigged, fast meters to overcharge you quickly.

For autos/tuk-tuks, common scams include:

  • Starting journey before negotiating a fixed fare and then demanding extortionate rates upon reaching the destination.
  • Claiming to not have change and insisting you overpay.

To combat both, always insist on going by the meter (after checking it’s correctly set) and have a city map handy to keep tabs on the route. Don’t be afraid to call them out on shady behavior.

tourist scams in Delhi and India

Train Ticket Scams and Fake Tour Guide Scams in India

If you’re exploring India by rail, beware of touts at stations peddling invalid or outright fake train tickets. Only purchase tickets from authorized booking counters after meticulous verification.

India is also rife with “friendly guides” who’ll latch onto you and try charging exorbitant fees for unwanted tours/services. Politely refuse their offers and only hire credible, registered guides from reputable agencies if required.

tourist scams in Delhi and India

The Bracelet or Bindi Gift Scam and the Counterfeit Goods & Jewelry Scam

The Bracelet/Bindi Gift Scam is popular around temples and tourist hubs. Children (usually exploited) will attempt to tie bracelets or bindis on you, claiming it’s a “free blessing.” Once the item is accepted, their handler appears demanding exorbitant payment citing ancient “customs.”

The Counterfeit Goods & Jewelry Scam occurs when vendors dupe you into buying cheap imitations marketed as high-quality items like gemstones, silk garments, or branded merchandise.

The same golden rules apply – don’t accept any unsolicited gifts or freebies, and be extremely skeptical of too-good-to-be-true deals on luxury goods.

tourist scams in Delhi and India

Unofficial Tour Guides and the Closed Tourist Site Scam

In cities like Delhi,you’ll likely find self-appointed “tour guides” lurking around major attractions and offering guided services. Besides usually giving inaccurate info, these unlicensed individuals are scammers looking to overcharge, or they could be part of an elaborate “closed monument” ruse.

Here’s how that plays out: You’re en route to a popular sight when a friendly local “helpfully” informs you that it’s closed for renovation or some other reason. They’ll then offer to take you to an alternative location – which is just a setup to divert you towards shops/agents from whom they earn commissions.

To avoid these scenarios, always verify monument operating hours beforehand and hire official guides only from registered agencies or your hotel.

tourist scams in Delhi and India

Unreasonably High Bar Tab and the Hotel Recommendation Scam

If someone (usually a friendly “local”) randomly strikes up a conversation and convinces you to visit a bar with them, be cautious. There are certain establishments that are part of an unreasonably high bar tab scam – your drinks end up being hugely overpriced, and burly handlers threaten until you fork over a ridiculous sum of cash.

The hotel recommendation scam happens when a seemingly good Samaritan offers to lead you to a “nice, cheap hotel” that ends up being an overpriced, run-down hovel. Once inside, you’re strong-armed by staff into paying extortionate rates.

Unless you’ve meticulously researched a place yourself or were referred by trusted sources, steer clear of random suggestions.

SIM Card Scam and How to Avoid Scams

At Connaught Place Another Delhi-based nuisance scam involves touts hanging out near SIM card/mobile shops trying to lure you in for “great deals” on local SIMs. The catch? You either get sold defective or overpriced SIM cards.

Connaught Place is a den of scams in general. Besides the travel agency and fake tourism office rackets, also watch out for “Ministry Approved” emporiums trying to peddle expensive souvenirs. Always cross-check shops/services using reliable online sources before engaging with them.

tourist scams in Delhi and India

The Luggage Assistance Scam and Conclusion

Let’s wrap up with one final scam that’s especially prevalent at railway stations and airports – the luggage assistance scam. Aggressive individuals will try forcibly taking your baggage (or simply picking it up before you can react) and then demand excessive “fees” for their unwanted “assistance.”

As annoying as the scamming menace can seem, it’s no reason to get deterred from experiencing the magic of India. By keeping your wits about you, standing your ground against pushy tactics, and simply exercising some common travel sense, you can see past the scams and immerse yourself in a truly extraordinary land.

While this guide aims to prepare you for shady scenarios, don’t let it fill you with fear or cynicism. The vast majority of Indians are beautiful people who’ll go out of their way to make you feel welcomed. As long as you take some basic precautions and listen to your intuition, the vibrant rewards of exploring Delhi and beyond will leave you wide-eyed with wonder. Safe travels!

Maharudra walke Is traveler and blogger, has over Ten years of experience writing about beach destinations, water activities, villas, solo travel, transportation and travel tips. He shares his experiences and recommendations on his blog, focusing on offbeat beaches and hidden gems. Maharudra enjoys water sports and renting luxury villas for relaxation.

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