It’s hard to escape from touts and scammers trying new travel scams anywhere in the world. These people are very pesky, mostly dishonest and always looking for new ways of fleecing money from unsuspecting tourists. We wrote this article to help tourists avoid getting cheated by such travel scams . We’ll explain this by the help of some real life incidents.
Common travel scams targeting tourists
1) Offering free, cheap stuff from ‘friend’s’ shop
Taking a tourist for a free tour of a workshop, garments factory, rug factory etc and claim that it’s just part of the tour and they are under no pressure to buy anything. It’s one of the most infamous scams in many popular tourist places done by taxi-drivers and guides .The salesmen don’t let anyone leave easily without buying anything and it could go on for a long time. The unsuspecting tourists are very often tricked in to buying some useless item like a rug, trinket or clothes at vastly inflated prices
2) Providing false information
One scam that we heard recently was from an American tourist who wanted to see Red Fort (Lal Qila) in Delhi. He was staying in Paharganj, which is about 15 minutes drive from Red Fort. As he started searching for an auto-rickshaw to take him there, a tout came up to him and offered him to take him there in his ‘private car’, and asked for 5-6 times the fare of what auto-rickshaw. He tried to persuade the tourist by telling him that due to some terrorist threat, only private cars were allowed inside the fort and auto-rickshaws and other vehicles were not. Fortunately, the tourist was smart and well-traveled and he ignored the tout. He got an auto-rickshaw and visited Red Fort without facing any issue.
Ways to avoid travel scams while traveling
1) Don’t go to businesses which taxi-drivers, touts etc insist
As mentioned above, most business owners pay a very large percentage of their sales amount to whoever brings clients to them. While a small commission is OK, most of the time, it’s so much that the tourists end up buying things at many times their reasonable cost. Taxi drivers may offer you reduced fare if you agree to visit some showrooms or shops on the way. Avoid them at all costs. If you absolutely have to go, then always check for reasonable price and bargain hard.
2) Collect information online
Most of reputable businesses have an online presence by the means of a website, reviews of forums and various travel related sites like Tripzaar, Google Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and many others. Look around for what other travelers are saying about them. Many businesses will have some bad reviews. In that case check how they responded or did anything to make up for the bad experience. There are many business with no online presence which can be good, but always ask fellow travelers before spending your money. People who are in business for long care about their reputation and are more trustworthy than small time touts who care only about money.
3) Plan ahead and keep it documented
You should know every relevant detail before paying anything in advance. When planning for a trip, make sure to have information about every hotel, driver, food, sightseeing, car, guide, etc. written down for quick and handy reference. It can prove helpful in many ways. Not only you have a good idea of what you are paying for, but you can also weed out the things you don’t need or ask for upgrades and better facilities.
4) Keep low profile
While traveling, do not show off your expensive stuff like branded clothes, electronics, large amounts of cash etc as a status symbol or for any other reason. Try keeping a low profile and don’t let other people know of your economic status. People who look rich usually attract more unsavoury characters than simple and and less flashy ones.
5) Don’t fall for bluffs
Some scammers try posing as officers of some government agency to fleece money from people. It’s rare, but if you ever have the misfortune of meeting any such thief, always ask for an ID. Every government issued ID has text in English as well as a local language, Hindi in most cases. They’ll probably tell you that you were doing something illegal and threaten you with arrest if you don’t pay them some money. Contact nearest policeman or an uninvolved local and let him know of the issue. As a rule, ignore anyone without uniform.
6) Ignore them
A lot of places frequented by tourists will have numerous vendors, guides and beggars trying to sell you something or asking for money. Don’t pay any attention to them or make eye contact or do anything to make them think that you might be interested in buying something from them. Not everyone is a tout, but most such people are poor who just want to make some money quick.
That being said, there are numerous ethical businesses like ours :D, which don’t rely on such corrupt practices . You’ll also find many good Samaritans who will help you without expecting anything in return. But you have to use your own wits to know that. Don’t let behaviour of some greedy person spoil your trip or mood. We hope that this article will prove useful and you will enjoy your travel experience. Contact us for feedback or more information about planning your own travel to Delhi, India or how to avoid travel scams.