Scams to avoid in India

Scams to avoid in India

Earlier this year we spent a month in India. A wonderful month filled with beautiful places, magical moments, delicious food, and great memories. Even though we fell for a scam on our first day it didn’t ruin our trip. 

In this post, we will share the most common scams in India and tips on how to avoid them. 

Pretending to not know your hotel

Drivers will pretend that they have never heard of your hotel even if it is one of the most famous hotels in the city. The reason they do is that they want to take you to another hotel where they get a commission for bringing them business. 

Saying your hotel has moved or closed 

A similar tactic is to say that your hotel has closed or moved and then take you to a slightly differently named hotel where they get a commission. 

This situation happened to us our first day in India. We took a taxi at the airport in Delhi to our hostel in Paharganj. He told us that the area is not safe for tourists and that it’s bad hotel. 

The SIM card scam

It’s difficult to get a SIM card in India that works! Getting a SIM card involves a lot of paperwork. If someone sells you a SIM and doesn’t let you fill in paperwork, there is a good chance it’s a used or defect card that won’t work. 

We recommend you to buy a SIM card at an official office from one of the carriers. 

Broken meter in the taxi

Drivers will say that the meter is broken. When you say you will tell the police most often the meter will magically work again. Another scam tactic is taking the longest route possible in order to make a few extra rupees. 

Watch out with food and drinks

Sometimes shop keepers refill bottled water with tap water and then glue the lid back on. Make sure to always inspect bottled water before buying. Other tourists told us stories about people putting drugs in food items and then offering it to tourists on trains and then steal all there bags. 

We recommend you to never accept food from strangers! 

Children wanting pens and beggars wanting milk 

As a tourist, you will be asked for money from beggars. We highly recommend that you completely ignore them and don’t give them money. Mothers will ask you to buy them milk from the nearby shop to feed their baby, kids will ask you to buy them pens for school. They all have an arrangement with the shops to return the item for cash after you leave. 

Asking for you to pay again at the hotel

If you stay in cheap hotels and hostels, then upon leaving after you’ve already paid for your stay, they may ask you to pay again! To avoid this situation keep all your receipts to prove you’ve already paid.

Gifting you something then asking to be paid 

A popular place for this scam is around the temples and holy rivers. It happened to us in Pushkar; A “holy man” put a red dot on our forehead and then asked for 50 rupees! 

If someone tries to gift you something be sure it is actually a gift and not a scam.

Watch out when you take photos

When taking photos of certain people or animals on the street, someone nearby is expecting a tip. It isn’t a law, but if you don’t pay expect to be yelled at.

Pashmina? Cashmere? Only one thousand rupees! 

You will never get real cashmere that cheap, so you know right away it’s fake! You can negotiate him down to 500 rupees but you are still overpaying for the product which is a fake silk/blend. 

Someone coming up to you saying they want to help you

Someone coming up to you saying they want to give you directions or help you find something will ask for money after. When we were in  Varanasi someone explained to us what was happening on the street. He demanded to give him money after. 

As soon as they start talking, tell them you aren’t interested. They will say “no, no I’m just being your friend” but sadly they aren’t! 

Fake tourist offices 

You can find a lot of tourist offices in India but there are not many official ones. Most tourist offices are there to trick you. The people who are working there will use whatever methods needed to get out as much money from you as they possibly can. They will lie about almost everything, just to sell you their services. Sometimes even non-existing ones.

Watch out for fake train tickets as well! Buy train tickets only at the train station. 

This is the scam we fell for on our first day! Read about it here


1. Be prepared! Do some research before you go, read up on common scams. 

2. On food items like Coca-Cola, snacks, and sometimes on clothing there are price tags with MRP listed. This is the maximum retail price and a good way to pay a fair price without getting screwed. 

3. Watch out where you exchange money! We recommend withdrawing money from an ATM instead of exchanging. 

4. Don’t trust everyone! Not everyone has good intentions. Don’t understand us wrong we met some very nice locals too. 

5. Have good travel insurance! 

6. Count your change very carefully.

7. Be careful with unofficial tour guides.

8. Buy a SIM card upon your arrival at the airport and don’t leave the airport until it’s activated.

9. Get comfortable saying NO!

We don’t look back on our trip negatively, we had an amazing time and can’t wait to visit India again! 

Have you ever fell for a scam? Let us know in the comment section below. 


1 Comment

  1. Martine
    October 1, 2020 / 7:32 pm

    Gouden tips 👍

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