The country this big and this beautiful is naturally a huge attraction for foreigners and widely spread rip-offs come with it. From local’s point of view, if you can afford coming all this way, you can also spare that extra bit and that’s the essence of scams of India. Without going into discussion how fair or not it is, all must admit – it does ruin plans, expose you to unnecessary dangerous and disrupts your planned budget.
Acknowledging that some scams are so smart and complex, that up until today we might not realize it, here are the 5 tips based on experience. Remember these for your trip to India! Good luck not getting into the scams of India!
Transport does go
You probably land in one of the larger India’s cities and already at the airport locals will try to convince you that the bus you are looking for, due to recent changes in the traffic, does not go, metro is still not opened or does not go where you go. Trust your research, say thank you and keep walking/looking, 9/10 times, you will be right. The better one I heard was that metro is closed due to the Ramadan – I nodded, went through and in 5 minutes I was on a train in the underground.
Everybody is in on it!
The size of network that participates in one scam is unbelievable and thus makes identifying scams of India very tricky. From the random boy to a guard, the story is consistent and with every person convincing you exact same thing, it seems more and more plausible. Read ‘The case of the religious festival’ below!
My local friends were warning to closely inspect water bottles, as refills with tap water do happen. The technique of refilling bottles at times is quite advanced, so inspecting the bottle cap may not be enough, check also the bottom of the plastic bottle for any signs of intervention, there should be only one mark in the middle.
Medicine and doctors
Easy to say ‘take care of yourself and bring the meds you might need’, like we know exactly what will happen. In general doctors in India are highly skilled and in case of a serious incident, as it has happened to an acquaintance of mine, they did a fantastic job and saved his life.
However, there are many ‘doctors’, who have never entered university and will benefit from you at any price: giving you meds that will make you worse, so that you come back for more, and thus spend more. In general doctors and medicines are a big part of scams of India.
LP even reports cases when restaurants poison foreigners and get a kick-off from doctors treating them. To be fair, foreigners with good insurance deals have also benefited from such doctors, bribing them into fake medical bills.
A good watch on the topic is the Scam City episode Delhi:
Trust the turban
Sikh’s believe that one can earn enough for living by being fair and that’s what they do, or at least a lot of them. When I needed a rickshaw or guidance, I searched for a man with a turban and it seemed like this strategy to avoid scams of India was paying off.
With such huge population, naturally, you run into very different people every day, while all these scams make it hard to trust people, who approach you for a chat, while if they are honest or mean to rip you off, that’s a chance you have to take. Don’t get paranoid, yet stay smart and do not agree to go to restaurants, shops or anywhere else and you should be fine!
THE CASE OF THE RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL OR HOW I GOT ABSOLUTELY SCAMMED IN JUST 3 HOURS IN DELHI
Following the map to my hostel I approach some kind of a big station building that I need to go through. A guard-like looking man stops me at the entrance demanding a permission – due to a festival currently taking place in the street I want to enter. I remember how many millions of Gods and goddesses India has and think to myself that the odds of running into a festival like this are actually high. But what the guy is telling me I find annoying and am sure I can somehow go around, just when I see stairs leading up through the outside, so I head there.
Before I make it even halfway, several other men stop me, telling me I cannot go there, where is my permission “Madam, you go agency, you get permission”. I surrender and in less than a minute I am in the craziest traffic I have ever encountered. Jet lagged and exhausted I feel dizzy in all this chaos. At a government agency for tourism, a man checks my booking, makes phone calls and announces that the booking is not valid, and all they can offer, is 100 USD per night accommodation. All I want is some cool air and a rest and now this!
I decide to take matters into my own hands and get in touch with a guy I knew from Couchsurfing, but the moment I ask if I could use the Internet, a damn blackout! Even more frustrated, I find another driver to take me to an Internet café, but instead I’m taken to yet another agency of the same kind. It’s a killing 43 degrees heat, lack of sleep and water are not helping with the desperation, so I take their deal – 3 times cheaper, yet still pricy and a rickshaw to my new accommodation. Some 4 weeks later I read about this scam in an old worn- down Lonely Planet book, only then realizing there was no festival what so ever and I was completely scammed!