Visiting India? Here are the top tricks and ruses to watch out for
You’ve probably encountered the occasional ‘broken meter’ and incorrect change. But if you’re white and travelling through India, the scams are on another level.Updated: Mar 16, 2019 18:08 IST
Your hotel? It’s burned down: Tired, just-landed first-time visitors at the airport or train station are perfect marks. Taxi and rickshaw drivers will typically tell them that the hotel they’re staying at has moved, changed names or shut, and offer an alternative hotel, from which the driver makes a commission.
This way to the tourist office: It happens most often at busy, long-distance train stations. A tourist will be met by a man in uniform informing them that their train has been cancelled. The uniformed man then offers to take them to the booking counter for a new journey at a much higher price. The uniform is fake, and the booking counter is a private company that makes a quick buck.
The lockdown that isn’t: Tourists at the Delhi Airport Metro have been stopped by uniformed men telling them that the route they’re trying to take is closed to tourists for the day owing to a religious ceremony. A uniformed man will walk up to confirm it, and offer to take them to the tourist office – often a private operator. They’ll pretend to call the tourist’s hotel and have some man on the line tell them that their booking has been cancelled because they didn’t arrive on time. The men will then offer alternative hotel packages.
Not your SIM card: While mobile phone connections are easy for tourists to buy, neighbourhood stores, particularly in small towns, often pass on used SIM cards, pocketing the money to register a new number. Tourists then end up dealing with calls from unknown people, or having their connections cut off in a few days.
The blessings in disguise: At religious sites, it’s not uncommon for holy men to agree to perform a ceremony for a fixed fee, say Rs 100. But during the rites, he’ll ask how many members are in the tourist’s family and will perform rituals for each one, later telling the visitor that they meant 100 per person in the family.
The inflated restaurant bill: Restaurants that get a lot of tourists tend to sneakily add items a patron didn’t order – often additional bottles of mineral water, more cocktails than were consumed, and a similar-sounding but more expensive item on the menu.
The gemstone heist: Tourists will be approached by a person who has a jewellery-exporter friend looking to send some gemstones out of the country via your duty-free allowance. They won’t ask for money, suckering you in but promising someone will pick them up after you land in your home country and give you a commission. The trouble begins when the tourist gets a call from the Customs Department, as intimated by the exporter. The officer will demand to see a bill, and since there’s none, he’ll accuse the tourist of theft – asking them to pay a fine or face arrest. The jeweller will suggest he or she pay the fine and be reimbursed later. The twist: the call was never from Customs, but a friend of the person who isn’t even a jeweller. Even the gems aren’t real.
Begging for goods: Since most tourists won’t give money to beggars, kids will usually ask them to buy fruits or pens or women will ask for milk or biscuits for their children from the local shop. Both groups will return the products to the store when the tourists leave, sharing the cash with the storekeeper.
There’s no such thing as a free elephant: For a foreign visitor, the sight of an elephant on the street is exotic enough to stop and engage. Mahouts know this and will guide the animal towards touristy areas. They’ll expect money if you take photos with it, pet it, or stand around admiring it.